Against all odds voters in Cyprus fended off the tide of populism.
When it comes to the history of this island political memory has been in many respects a hindrance, an obsession that prevented the coming of the future. Despite expectations voters took the risk for what is a temporary break with the past.
A positive political agenda delivers better results in the long term because it is forward looking
While in the UK Farage’s populist Brexit party won the poll, the Cyprus vote entailed elements of tactical voting to prevent the fringe from becoming mainstream. Citizens shifted their allegiances to prevent the far right ELAM from gaining a seat in the EU Parliament, disproving polls showing that the far right party will easily win a seat.
Say what you will about Cyprus but the majority of the population - this time around - rose to the occasion. The symbolism should not be underestimated and is indicative of a change in political culture in a country that only 6 years ago went bankrupt because of decisions taken by its leaders. In an era where Europeans often make political choices that are markedly against their own interests, Cypriots in contrast elected the first ever Turkish Cypriot MEP breaking a mental ethnic barrier. ‘’Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, we ran together, we won together’’, said Kizilyurek.
With the highest number of votes Cyprus also elected DISY candidate Loucas Fourlas, a journalist with a track record of fighting for political accountability and common decency in relations between citizens and the state.
However in the run up to the vote, DISY, the ruling party that had shown mastery of the balancing act between liberal and conservative politics slipped back into old political habits. The conscious effort to discredit Kizilyurek by appealing to the political memory of mistrust between the two ethnic groups on the island failed. As the election results show the liberal candidates of DISY were by far more successful than the nationalist ones.
It was not necessary to revert to the past, to divide in order to win, and DISY President Averof Neophytou should have known better. It is more likely that the move harmed DISY more than it benefited it. The DISY victory, even by a small margin, reflects and was enabled by a stable economic recovery, a success story that speaks for itself.
As an active member of the EPP with an understanding of the European landscape and as a party with aptitude on economic growth DISY was already a favourite among voters who look back in grief at the lost years of AKEL’s mismanagement of the economy.
A positive political agenda delivers better results in the long term because it is forward looking. Such an approach allows for changes in the way our polity works, it enables new ideas to take shape and lays the past down to rest.